Play ball!

Baseball and trial lawyers have a lot in common, and some people you know played serious ball

Stuart Zanville
2018 February

I am a baseball fan and so are a lot of CAALA members.

For baseball fans, the month of February is special. It’s the start of spring training. In a few weeks players report to their training sites and games for all 30 major league teams begin by the end of the month.

Spring training is a magical time for teams and fans, and it also provides some lessons for trial lawyers. It’s when every team starts with a blank slate and every fan believes that this is the year their team ends up in the World Series. Sounds like how trial lawyers feel when they start to prep for a new trial.

Trial lawyers have a lot in common with baseball and it’s much more than just having a rooting interest in the Dodgers or Angels. If you think about it, there are a lot of similarities.

Commonalities

Trial lawyers start a new “season” every time they begin a new trial. The result of their last trial won’t help them.

Like baseball players, trial lawyers are competitors who play to win. Not all of them use the same style, either. Like pitchers, some overpower you and some use finesse.

Trial lawyers will tell you that the civil justice system levels the playing field and that like in baseball, there is order and there are rules with an arbiter applying them to both sides.

A big trial is like a big game, with lots of attention and analysis.

Trial lawyers use tips and strategy to gain an edge over their opponent. They look at “scouting reports” that tell them what to expect from the defense attorney or expert they will see in court.

If a trial lawyer has a great closing argument, his peers will say that he or she “hit it out of the park.” If the closing doesn’t resonate with the jury, the description will be that they “whiffed.” A great result is a “grand slam.”

One solo trial lawyer can prevail against a tableful of high-priced defense attorneys. This is the same in baseball, where the team with the most money or highest payroll doesn’t always win.

Age also doesn’t matter; a young trial lawyer can succeed against a veteran opposing counsel. Just like a young rookie excelling in baseball.

Trial lawyers, like baseball players, must have short memories. When a verdict doesn’t go their way, they shrug it off and move on; just like a pitcher who gives up a game-winning hit and must put it out of his mind before the next game.

CAALA members who play ball

While there are similarities between baseball players and trial lawyers, some CAALA members take their interest in baseball to a different level – they actually played the game, and many still do.

If you’ve ever spoken with Geoff Wells of Greene Broillet & Wheeler, you probably heard him describe his passion for baseball. Geoff was CAALA’s President in 2014 but before that he was a stellar high school and college pitcher in his home state of Washington. Geoff continues to coach baseball and still throws a few innings when called on.

Former CAALA President Tom Dempsey played baseball at UCLA and continues to play when he can as a member of the UCLA Alumni baseball team, sharing the field with players one-third his age.

Renowned trial attorney Tom Girardi will tell you that he was a minor league baseball player when his family convinced him to give up baseball and go to law school. That obviously worked out well.

CAALA’s 2018 President Mike Arias was a great high school athlete and for a while was a sports agent representing pro athletes. Mike is an avid Dodgers fan, as are many CAALA members.

CAALA’s 2015 President Joe Barrett is a Boston Red Sox diehard and a regular player on local amateur baseball teams made up of former and future major leaguers.

Long-time CAALA member Gary Stern, an associate with Carpenter Zuckerman & Rowley, is a regular participant at baseball fantasy camps playing alongside former major leaguers. Stern has great passion for the fantasy camps that bring together older players who still love the game. Stern closely follows his favorite team, the Dodgers.

CAALA Affiliate Member Len Blonder, a structured settlement broker with Arcadia Settlements Group, is also passionate about the Dodgers and baseball fantasy camps and counts among his close friends former Dodger great Don Newcombe.

Kelly Deutsch is a principal at Verdict Videos and she works closely with many CAALA members. Kelly was an outstanding softball player in college, earning Most Valuable Player honors on the varsity team at Emerson College.

Another former baseball player closely associated with CAALA members is our Director of Finance and Operations Bill Smith. Smith made it to the minor leagues as a pitcher.

It’s a new year and a new season. Whether you are a baseball player or a trial lawyer, or both, everyone has an equal chance to win. As for me, I’ll be rooting for CAALA’s members in court and cheering on my favorite baseball team, the Angels. This time it really does look like it will be their year.

Stuart Zanville Stuart Zanville

Stuart Zanville is the Executive Director of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Contact him at (213) 487-1212 or by e-mail: stuart@caala.org.

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